Abolish the Box

And while you’re at it, abolish the rank too

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

When school counselors write your letter of recommendation, there is a box they must check. It is not just any ordinary box; this box tells colleges whether or not you took the “most demanding” courses offered.

No, this does not mean that you took one Advanced Placement class and a few honors classes. The box means you took every single Advanced Placement class offered at Oak Park High School.

Here is what the common ap actually says — “In comparison with other college preparatory students at your school, the applicant’s course selection is: [ ] Most demanding [ ] Very demanding [ ] Demanding [ ] Average” … You get the idea.

Most of us do not have a personal relationship with our counselors. They merely know us from the one meeting we have every year to go over classes we picked or should have picked or should not have picked.

When applying to colleges, a student’s identity is essentially reduced to a box and a rank.

Oftentimes — I think we all agree — our grades and academic careers do not tell the full story. They can’t unveil the world of our separate and unique personalities and extracurriculars. The Common App does not tell the colleges who we are as people away from the eight or so hours of school, or what our friends would say about us. The same story can come through the letters of recommendation that the teachers who know us share — but not all colleges accept letters of recommendation..

The Common App is merely a piece of paper, a check on a box that does not share the full story.

Whether or not I took CP or AP Statistics does not determine my worth as a student or a person applying to college. Whether or not I took honors or AP English does not determine my worth as a student or a person applying to college. My high school career should not be summed up by the rigor of my course load.

If I got an A in CP Statistics, I succeeded in passing a challenging class. If I were to take every single AP class offered at this school, I would not be mentally stable and I would not have the time to enjoy other things I love. I would not have time for the extracurriculars that have made me the person who is applying to college.

It is important to note that the only schools really considering the check in the “Most demanding” box are Ivy Leagues and highly selective colleges. Colleges like the UC and CSU systems do not include the check on the application. In recent years, businesses are looking for more diverse staffs. The diversity is not just related to race and ethnicity but also educational background.

The box is a way to divide students between whether they took all the rigorous classes or wanted to enjoy a high school experience with programs they also love AND are successful in. I believe we all have an extracurricular not connected with school, and the world would end if we did not have the program. If we have to take all APs in high school to make sure our letters of recommendation in the Common App from the counselors are the best, then we would not be able to have our extracurriculars as we make the distinction between our mental health and the “most demanding” course load.

The box is only a way to show the colleges that we valued making sure the counselors could check the box rather than valuing the things we love, such as band or photography, that we could not have time for if we did take every “demanding” class.

Abolish the box, and abolish our class rank while you’re at it — I mean so much more than just a check and a number.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email